In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Who Recommended it to Me: a lot of people...
Who I Would Recommend it To: people who appreciate humor and sadness packed into one novel
This book was an interesting take on race. Obviously, our country is well over the racism that it had not so long ago. There are still many racist people, of course. And yet a lot of people are still uncomfortable talking about race, as if it is something forbidden or bad. Yes, a lot of people are sensitive about it and worry that they'll sound racist. But the truth is, facts are facts and I like Alexie's fearlessness as he approaches race in this book. He states the truth for Junior: in the place where he lives, Indians are generally a lot poorer than whites. He tells about Junior's struggles as a "part-time" Indian: when he goes to school, he betrays his fellow Indians. Now, what is more important, the reader asks herself as she's reading this: Junior's education or loyalty to those he has grown up with? I'd say education. After all, he lives with the ones he betrays. He has a right to get a better education. Some people say that he has no right to be there; he's a poor Indian who just wants attention, etc.
What positively amazed me about the book was that Indians' culture was so much different than white people's. For example, if you were Indian and you punched another Indian, the Indian you punched would be plotting revenge all day, and the fight would be on. But as the reader saw when some white boys were picking on Junior and Junior punched one of them--the biggest one--the boy was surprised and then Junior earned his respect because he knew that he was tough and could handle taunting. The boys went on to be pretty good friends after that, if friends can be identified with a friendly nod occasionally in the hallways, or a high-five after a good basketball game.
Now that I've laid down the dramatic analysis, I think I'll say that my favorite character in this book was the grandmother. Witty and thoughtful, she reminded me of so many ways of my own grandmother, who died when I was 8 years old. Even though my picture of my grandmother grows more faded every day, certain things about her are still vivid in my mind. The way she stole a painting off a wall in an art gallery. (the artist was eventually fine with it. The painting still hangs in our house.) So many other things about my grandmother remind me of Junior's grandmother. Junior's grandmother's last words were, "Forgive him," of the drunk driver who knocked into her, causing her death. I mean, who says forgive him about a drunk driver? Someone completely amazing.
A great moment in this book, where Junior recognizes his grandmother's amazing-ness:
And do you want to know what the very best thing was about Wellpinit?
She was amazing.
She was the most amazing person in the world.
Do you want to know the very best thing about my grandmother?
She was tolerant.
Junior goes on to say how most people say that their grandmothers are wise or kind or have seen everything, but his grandmother is everything and tolerant.
Tolerant. This word reflects the whole book. Tolerance is the theme. Junior is tolerant. His family and friends are tolerant. And most of all, his grandmother is tolerant.
So it's your choice. Are you going to go and buy The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian? I'd advise you to do so. So yes! Go out and buy it.
P.S. :There's a Discussion Guide in the back of the book. Usually I ignore discussion guides, thinking that I can analyze and discuss the book myself without any help. But I found this discussion guide to be extremely helpful in writing this review. The guide gave me ideas which led to other ideas which led to the ideas that I articulated in this review.
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